Bloodshot (China/United States, 2020)

March 12, 2020
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Bloodshot Poster

Bloodshot suffers from a world-building failure. With too little time and emphasis placed on crafting the setting and exploring some of the rich possibilities of the milieu in which events transpire, the movie turns into little more than a ho-hum Vin Diesel action film. Had the movie been made 30+ years ago, it likely would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger; there are some narrative similarities to Total Recall, a science fiction film that spent more time focused on Schwarzenegger’s biceps and Sharon Stone’s cleavage than on far more interesting things associated with the core technology of memory implantation.

In the past, Diesel has shown an affinity for science fiction and his Riddick films (Pitch Black in particular) have represented some of his best acting. Unfortunately, Bloodshot (based on the comic book) dispenses with the kind of narrative exploration that would make the setting feel like something more substantive than cobbled-together elements taken off a generic “futuristic technology” shelf. To do so would take time away from the repetitive action/fight sequences.

Bloodshot deals with the concept of implanted memories. Ray Garrision (Diesel) is a KIA soldier. Before dying, he watches as his beloved wife, Gina (Talulah Riley), is brutally murdered. He becomes the first successful “resurrection” of a black ops think tank headed by the mysterious Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and his beautiful assistant, KT (Eiza Gonzalez). His memory is a blank slate but his body has been technologically enhanced. His bloodstream is filled with nanites that immediately repair any damage done to his flesh. He also possesses superhuman strength and the ability to have Internet access plugged directly into his brain. Ray gradually begins to remember bits and pieces from his previous life and his first memories are of Gina’s death. He becomes obsessed with finding her killer and getting revenge. But are those memories his or have they been implanted by Harting for purposes of his own?

Bloodshot owes as much to standard superhero tropes as it does to science fiction properties like Total Recall. Ray is a Wolverine-type character and his foes, like Sam Heughan’s Jimmy Dalton, are equally superhuman, with cybernetic upgrades that make them difficult to stop and almost impossible to kill. The film’s centerpiece action scene, a fight scene atop a skyscraper elevator between Ray, Dalton, and another enhanced man, feels like it could have been lifted from any DC or Marvel movie.

There’s not much suspense in Bloodshot. The main character has already died and can apparently die repeatedly (and be brought back) even after being in the blast range of a nasty bomb. The nanites in his blood allow him to heal gruesome wounds (such as half of his head being blown apart), essentially making him invulnerable. With such a thinly drawn character, there’s not much to latch onto and little reason to care about Ray. If he gets killed, so what? He’ll just come back. KT is more interesting but, because this is a Vin Diesel movie and she’s a woman, she’s just given token sidekick stuff to do.

The film’s violence pushes the PG-13 envelope to its limits. I suppose that making Ray cybernetic allows the filmmakers to get away with some gory stuff. There’s also a “sweet” sex scene in which director Dave Wilson (making his feature film debut) choreographs the action so that actress Talulah Riley’s nipples remain hidden. At its heart, Bloodshot wants to be R-rated. It probably should be R-rated but the filmmakers didn’t want to lose the all-important teen male component of their audience.

Despite offering the promise of something new and interesting (and the way in which implanted memories are used – to provide an assassin with new targets – is fertile ground), the premise becomes little more than a device by which the filmmakers can get Vin Diesel to flex his muscles, sneer into the camera, and engage in CGI-crafted, gravity-defying fights with other equally unexpressive actors. The whole thing feels stale and familiar and is hardly a good reason to seek out a movie theater where Bloodshot is playing. Director Dave Wilson cut his teeth working in the video game industry (primarily for Blur Studio) and this movie has all the strengths and weaknesses one might reasonably expect from someone whose background is in visual effects and not storytelling.

Bloodshot (China/United States, 2020)

Run Time: 1:49
U.S. Release Date: 2020-03-13
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content, Nudity)
Genre: Science Fiction/Adventure
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1